As the effects of Hurricane Sandy began to hit her city, public health author and analyst Laurie Garrett gathered her thoughts about the science and the politics of climate change.
Working in her apartment atop the tallest residential building on the Brooklyn waterfront, she titled her article: “Frankenstorm: due to climate change?”
Garrett, who may be best known as the author of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, blogged:
“I am writing quickly, and my prose may be less-than-perfect, because I fear we will soon lose electricity. (As I write these words a howl of wind pierces my home, rain is slamming windows so hard that water is seeping in rivulets through the panes and inside my home, and I can feel buffeting of wind gusts – all happening while the brunt of the storm is still three or four hours away.)…
I am going to send this now. It is 4:30 pm in New York. The rain is sheeting so hard against my windows that looking out feels like I’m on the wrong end of aquarium glass. Wind gusts are making my tower move, producing a vague sense of sea sickness. As I look at the Brooklyn Bridge I fear the renovation construction rigs hanging beneath its mile-and-a-half span will blow off, sending sheets of corrugated steel flying. Trees on the river front are bent so hard in the wind that the tops seem to touch the ground. And the worst of this is still three to four hours away.”
Her piece concludes: “Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as climate change.”
But, as has been widely noted, climate change policy has not figured much at all in the US election campaign.
“The presidential candidates decided not to speak about climate change, but climate change has decided to speak to them,” begins an article in The Nation, We Are All from New Orleans Now: Climate Change, Hurricanes and the Fate of America’s Coastal Cities.
“And what is a thousand-mile-wide storm pushing 11 feet of water toward our country’s biggest population center saying just days before the election? It is this: we are all from New Orleans now. Climate change—through the measurable rise of sea levels and a documented increase in the intensity of Atlantic storms—has made 100 million Americans virtually as vulnerable to catastrophe as the victims of Hurricane Katrina were seven years ago.”
A similar theme comes from The Huffington Post - In Hurricane Sandy’s Fury, The Fingerprint Of Climate Change.
“The irony is that the two presidential candidates decided not to speak about climate change, and now they are seeing the climate speak to them,” said Tidwell. “That’s really what’s happening here. The climate is now speaking to them — and to everyone else.”
And at the The New Yorker:
“Coming as it is just a week before Election Day, Sandy makes the fact that climate change has been entirely ignored during this campaign seem all the more grotesque. In a year of record-breaking temperatures across the U.S., record drought conditions in the country’s corn belt, and now a record storm affecting the nation’s most populous cities, neither candidate found the issue to be worthy of discussion. Pressed about this finally the other day on MTV, President Obama called climate change a “critical issue” that he was “surprised” hadn’t come up during any of the debates, a response that was at once completely accurate and totally disingenuous. (As one commentator pointed out, he might have brought up this “critical” issue on his own since “he is the friggin’ POTUS.”)”
It will be interesting to see whether climate change re-emerges as an issue of concern for the public, policy makers and politicians here in Australia in the wake of Sandy.
Online innovation and disasters
As with other recent disasters and crises, the citizens have been sharing the news, including links to useful resources around the mental health impacts of flooding, and online innovation abounds.
Poynter has stories about the upsurge in Instagram use (before the hurricane hit, the company said that 10 pictures per second were being posted with the hashtag #sandy) and featuring examples of creative coverage of the hurricane. These include:
- The Huffington Post is working with SeeClickFix to map reports of storm-related outages and infrastructure problems.
- Google’s Crisis Map overlays lots of visual data about the storm — radar, forecast track, emergency shelters, etc. And its New York City-specific version of that map also includes evacuation zones and storm surge probabilities.
• See here for previous Croakey coverage of climate change and health.